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SEMrush Blog

How Google Algorithm Evolved Through the Years: Panda, Penguin and Other Google "Animals"

SEMrush Blog
How Google Algorithm Evolved Through the Years: Panda, Penguin and Other Google "Animals"

Google is the undisputed king of search. The search engine has grown in leaps and bounds over the years and is in a position to dictate terms for the other leading search engines. Google is responsible for Yahoo offloading its search to Bing. In its role as the supreme search engine, Google has been the driving force behind more effective SEO and improving the quality of search engine results. The aim has been to provide value to users and direct them to where they want to be rather than leaving them on their own to find the way.

This is the reason why the Google search algorithm has been updated many times over the past decade. Google has refined its search to weed out all miscreants and webmasters who had gotten to the top of the search engine rankings through foul play. These days, all it takes to send webmasters into a tizzy is the slightest hint of a Google algorithm update on the horizon. In the recent past, this has been the case with Google Panda and Google Penguin.

In its quest to improve the quality of its search engine, Google has made life incredibly difficult for SEO experts. They have to contend with new policies being introduced from time to time as well as the frequent updates. Penguin and Panda in particular have been updates that have shaken the very core of SEO best practices. Those who don’t fall in line with Google’s requirements receive a Google Penguin penalty or other sanctions and heavily at that. Their Google page ranking takes a hit and they are knocked off the pedestal.

You can ensure you don’t suffer the same fate by making the necessary changes to your website and the content you post around the web. The key to this is using the best possible keywords which you can easily find through SEMrush. SEMrush is a tool developed specifically for helping websites climb to the top of the search engine rankings. Using it would ensure that your website appears friendly to Google and doesn’t get hit by Panda or Penguin.

Given all the attention given to Penguin and Panda, it seems as though Google didn’t roll out any updates before that. This is not the case at all. The Google algorithm has been constantly updated since the turn of the millennium. Even before Google fell in love with black and white animals, there were other Google ‘animals’.  Well, they weren’t exactly animals but they were updates nonetheless. Let’s look at how the Google algorithm has evolved through the years.

It All Began with the Google Dance

The first round of updates to the algorithm was released a decade ago, in 2003. At that time, Google wasn’t the force it is now and was still trying to find its feet regarding how to improve search. At that time, most of the changes introduced were related to indexing and hidden links on website. Overall, they were named the Google Dance updates and included Fritz, Dominic, Cassandra and Esmeralda. Catchy names, one should say, but none of them were major updates.

From Individuals to State Names

Google ditched the people’s names soon after and switched instead to state names. In fact, the first really major update to the algorithm, on the scale of Google Panda was Florida. It was the first one to really hit the SEO experts hard. This was also the first time that Google put its foot down on keyword stuffing. Florida was followed soon after by Austin which built on the same premise.

It’s Time for a Drink

The first truly internal Google algorithm update was Brandy. It was aimed at improving the criteria and process Google followed for ranking websites. Google further introduced a number of beverage-themed updates, namely Allegra, Bourbon, Jagger and Caffeine. With these updates, Google began cracking down on unnatural and suspicious links and duplicate content. In that regard, Caffeine is a fairly recent update, rolled out in 2010. It was intended to improve the speed at which the crawlers checked webpages.

Panda Comes Along

Google Panda is by and far the biggest of all updates made to the Google search algorithm. It affected no less than 12% of the search results on the internet at the time. Google took note of the poor quality of some websites, especially with regards to the content published there. This is where entire websites began receiving penalties instead of just specific webpages. Panda was released in February 2011 and its impact is still being felt today. Google did make things difficult for SEOs and marketers by rolling continuous updates.

Penguin’s In the House

Google Penguin was introduced just over a year after Panda. The purpose of Penguin is essentially the same, that to rid the search results of poor quality content. Penguin further built on it by tackling web spam and targeting websites that have used nefarious tactics to get to the top of the search engine rankings.

With Penguin and Panda unleashed, Google is continuing to take down websites with poor quality content, unnatural links or any other items that violate Google’s policies. Most of all, Google is making search more refined and effective for its users. There is still time before Google releases another animal from its zoo. As far as the rumors go, the next two to be released are going to be Skunk and Crocodile. You have to wait and see!

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